A joint report of the ministry of environment and forests and the Department of Environment submitted to the High Court Division on Thursday said that they found 190 industries had been established within 10 km of the Sunderbans, which is Environmentally Critical Area for the mangrove forest, the world’s largest.
According to the report, 24 of these industries could spell danger to the Sunderbans, as well as its surrounding waters and land.
The report identified 103 industries in orange kha category that is less dangerous while 63 others in orange Ka category that is further less dangerous to the Sunderbans.
The ministry of environment and forest and the DoE submitted that 181 industries took clearance from the DoE while nine others took only cite clearance.
At the hearing, deputy attorney general Motaher Hossain Sazu read out the report.
After hearing the report, a bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Ashraful Kamal said that they would give their decision about the report on May 9.
After hearing a public interest litigation writ petition of Supreme Court lawyer Shaikh Faridul Islam, also president of Save the Sunderbans, the court had on August 24, 2017 directed the environment and forests ministry and the DoE to submit the report.
In his submissions, petitioner’s lawyer Shaikh Mohammad Zakir Hossain called for immediate removal of the 24 industries identified in the report as dangerous for the Sunderbans and shifting the remaining industries outside the Sunderban in phases, as they were set up illegally violating a circular issued by the government on August 30, 1999, in which the 10-km area around the Sunderbans was declared as Environmentally Critically Area for the endangered mangrove forest.
In his submissions the DAG pointed out that the court could take opinion of experts on the issues.
Later, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association’s executive directive Syeda Rizwana Hasan described all the 190 industries setup within the 10-km radius of the Sunderbans as ‘illegal’ as in 1999, the government had prohibited establishment of factories within the Environmentally Critical Area for the Sunderbans.
She told New Age that all these industries were equally harmful for the Sunderbans.
She said that the 24 industries should be demolished immediately while the 166 other industries should be given time to relocate.
In 2017, the bench directed the government not to give permission for setting up new industries within the 10 km radius of the Sunderbans.
It had also asked the government to explain why setting up of 156 new industries within the 10km radius of the Sunderbans in 2016 would not be declared illegal.
The government was also asked to explain why it would not be directed to remove the industries posing ecological threat to the Sunderbans, a world heritage site.
According to BELA, polluting industries, including cement factories, were built either by the government itself or private entrepreneurs within the 10 km radius of the Sunderbans.
They took advantage of the loopholes in the government order, to set up the factories with clearance from the DoE.
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